Q&A with Frank Dietz, author of

Q&A with Frank Dietz

What inspired you when you were younger?

The first movie I remember seeing was ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, and it had a major impact on me, one that has lasted every decade since. The Universal monster films, Hammer horror films and Ray Harryhausen movies were all inspirational, along with authors like Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine was like a roadmap pointing the way to my career.

Why did you decide to write a memoir?

For several years I have been doing live commentaries at screenings of the horror movies I appeared in. The audiences seemed to really enjoy my anecdotes of the on-set mishaps and occurrences, so I decided maybe it was time to share those stories with a larger audience.

How did those movies come to be considered cult films?

My first film, ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE, came out on VHS and then disappeared for years. Frank Conniff of Mystery Science Theater 3000 apparently found one of those tapes, and after watching it determined it needed the MST3K treatment. That is how many people first discovered that movie, which sparked interest in the other films I made with John Fasano. They became labeled “cult” movies over time because of their low-budget weirdness.

Were you a mystery science theater fan?

I was! I had been watching the series on Comedy Central for a few years. Imagine my surprise when ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE popped up on their schedule for season six! I was equally delighted and terrified!

What was the weirdest experience you had on a film set?

There were so many, particularly on the horror films we made in Canada. The weirdest was probably filming a buck-naked love scene with a complete stranger on the set of BLACK ROSES. I was introduced to the woman literally thirty seconds before we had to strip down and act like we were having wild sex, with a film crew gathered around us. It was handled very professionally, but also quite surreal.

What made you turn from acting to screenwriting?

On the set of ROCK N’ ROLL NIGHTMARE, director John Fasano asked me to write a short dialogue scene between my character and his newlywed wife that he could use as a bridge between two other scenes. I quickly jotted down a sweet little scene and presented it to John, who read it and said, “Great, let’s shoot it.” I was immediately bitten by the screenwriting bug, and from there made it the focus of my film career.

Was it difficult to break into the screenwriting industry?

Extremely difficult. I moved to Los Angeles with two scripts in my hands. I made a lot of rookie moves, and was close to giving up. But a chance meeting with a Hollywood legend turned that around. He read my scripts and encouraged me to keep at it. He said my work was good and urged me not to give up. He was right. A few months later I landed my first manager, and shortly after that had a movie that I wrote produced.

Why did you transition from writing to animation?

I had been a working freelance screenwriter for a few years when my wife Liane, who was working at Walt Disney Feature Animation, suggested I consider submitting a portfolio. I loved writing but I was also a decent artist, and the idea of a regular paycheck was appealing. Plus, I was a lifelong fan of Disney’s animated movies, and the idea of being a “part of that world” was rather exciting. That turned into eight years in the cleanup animation department at the most famous animation studio in the world!

How did you become involved in the CREEPSHOW television series?

Greg Nicotero and I had become friends in the early nineties, because we shared a love of horror and science fiction. I was visiting him on the set of THE WALKING DEAD when he told me he had secured the rights to the CREEPSHOW brand and was planning an anthology series based on the 1982 Romero/King movie. I wrote a twenty-four-page script and submitted it for season two of the series, and it was accepted. Greg himself ended up directing the episode, which was great because after all our years as friends we finally got to collaborate on something we would have loved when we were kids.

What do you hope people will take from your book?

I tried to write these stories in an entertaining manner, with a fair amount of humor. But I also wanted to reader to see, through my equal measures of failure and triumph, that creative goals are always worth pursuing. I started out as a lonely kid who dreamt of making monsters, and ended up doing exactly that in this wild, weird, and wonderful industry.

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